Gladiatrix - Russell Whitfield Fans of Steven Pressfield's "Gates of Fire" and/or Frank Miller's "300" will find much to admire in Russell Whitfield's debut novel, "Gladiatrix."Whitfield's protagonist, Lysandra, is a Spartan priestess captured in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) after she is the sole survivor of a shipwreck in the Hellespont. She is sold into slavery and becomes the property of Lucius Balbus, owner of the first all-female ludus (gladiatorial school) in the region. Along with Lysandra, readers are introduced to women from many cultures subdued by Roman conquest.Whitfield pulls no punches when he writes about either the Spartan agoge or the Roman ludus, detailing the brutal training regimes of both. To do so, he draws upon not only historical documentation but also his experience as a gladiatorial reenactor/cultural interpreter. This book is gritty, realistic, passionate and gripping. The characters are well-developed and believable, and the descriptions of scenery, battles and culture are brilliant. I recommend this novel without reservation.(Review based on advance readers' edition.)